The other morning, I was listenting without paying attention to a radio program until one of the journalists quoted a passage of Barack Obama’s memoirs, A promised land.
I want to be precise here. I don’t want to talk about politics nor stand for a political position. I stick to my favorite topic since I really think Mr. Obama needs to be kinder ! And you are going to understand why.
"A Promised land", extract
A promised land is the first part of Obama Presidency memoirs. This is the kind of book where the President shares his memories with wisdom and his experiences to the postery. This is usually how he tries to make his own version of History.
Every head of state abides by this tradition and these books are usually dense and complimentary, the author showing off his best profile.
In Mr. Obama’s case, it is not his first book and he is usually used to those communication exercises, his greatest strength.
Not this time.
Here is the extract which got my attention.
“With his dark, expressive vaguely Mediterranean features (he was half Hungarian and a quarter Greek Jew) and small stature (he was about five-foot-five but wore lifts in his shoes to make himself taller), he looked like a figure out of a Toulouse-Lautrec painting.”
A bitter description
As many people, I liked Obama Presidency thanks to his natural charisma, the symbolism he represented and the much expected alternative he was after G.W. Bush. In many aspects, he was the image I imagine of an American president. I’m not an expert in politics nor diplomatic but I used to respect the man I thought was iconic.
Nicolas Sarkozy is another kind of President and character. I can’t really be objective about his career, his personality or his presidency. Maybe because I’m French.
However, I’ve been shocked by this description, because of the bitterness of the comparisons; the choice of the adjectives which are not worthy of the man who wrote these lines. And they are even less worthy of a President’s memoirs.
Never cross the line
I see here the same meanness we can witness in poor quality discussions or in social media. It reminds me of the wickedness I suffered in High School.
If you know a bit of the amazing Toulouse-Lautrec’s Art, you can only wince to be compared to the deformed and grotesque creatures living in this extraordinary canvas.
And that’s what shocked me so much. Why, when Mr. Obama has the opportunity to tell History from his point of view, to enhance his results in comparison to others heads of state, why would he choose the most bitter weapon ?
In my career, when I had to negotiate, my managers and trainers learnt me there is a line to never cross. You can discuss, challenge, attack anything but you never attack the person’s integrity. It means you can’t discuss the physical appearance, the values or the private life of your speaker. There are always other ways to progress or unsettle your opponent.
It is now obvious Mr Obama crossed that line, which is the basis of respect and kindness in communication.
Kindness is still not seen as a strength
To conclude, what this text makes me think, is Kindness is a rarity that struggles to impose itself.
If a man, who has been for many years, one of the most powerful men in the world and who has nothing to prove to anyone, choses mockery to illustrate his memoirs, what kind of teaching does he transmit to the future generations ?
What kind of example does this kind of text give to all the ones who desire to access power ? That you have to crush and despise your opponent to dominate and conquer them ?
I ask you, what needs the most strength ?
Jeering, scoffing, criticizing? Or forgiving, helping, being grateful, creative, tenacious, a believer, a listener while staying true to yourself and respectful of yourself and others?
I dream to see one day all these values promoted by our political leaders and executives.I dream, one day, I can read the memoirs of a great leader who succeeded despite everything and where I can find the inspiration and the kindness my sons need to build tomorrow’s world.